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To Live Without Fear

by Asha Praver

Earthquakes don’t give you any warning. One minute, the planet is just fine, doing what it always does, and the next minute it isn’t. I’ve lived in California for decades so when the earthquake hit in 1989, I knew instantly what was happening. Still, my mind froze in stunned amazement, as I watched the walls of my apartment undulating to the rhythm of tectonic plates crashing into each other.

My inner wordsmith kicked in even before the survival instinct. “Earthquake proof?” Now that’s oxymoronic! If God wants your building, He is going to take it!” I decided not to wait around to see if He wanted it, but dashed into the courtyard.

The inner wordsmith was not doing her job because I forgot the meaning of the words “earth” and “quake” and thought everything outside the rattling building would be normal. It wasn’t. The ground moved under my feet and water from the swimming pool crashed over the fence like a tidal wave.

At the same time, an inner tidal wave of fear and joy in equal measure inundated me.

Fear was self-evident. An earthquake pulls the ground out from under you! No place is safe. The earthquake is happening everywhere.

Joy was more subtle. As it turned out, I, and my loved ones were safe, and our little corner of the planet was undamaged. But in that moment, I didn’t know what was going to happen. Not far away property was destroyed and people died. My joy was not a premonition that all would be well.

The joy was a visit from the Comforter, the Divine Mother, Infinite Compassion of God. In Her sweet way she asked me, “Do you really think your whim is Wisdom and your perception of reality all there is?”

Suddenly it all seemed like a Cosmic Joke carried out on an infinite scale. Buildings rattling, power lines whipping to and fro, tall trees bending over almost touching the green lawn rising up to meet them, and in the midst of it, me, running madly from inside to out assuming that because I wanted things to be different the earthquake would stop.

With infinite kindness, Divine Mother laughed. And even though my laughter was deep inside, buried under fear, some part of me laughed with Her.

Isn’t it true that when someone pulls off a really good joke, not mean-spirited, but kindly, just for fun, that when the unexpected is revealed, even if at first you are frightened by the sudden shift, afterwards you laugh and applaud both the skill and the loving concern that inspired the prankster to entertain you with such consummate skill?

“For in and out, above, about, below,

‘Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show,

Play’d in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,

Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.”

-- The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Quatrain 46

I would like to say that after that earthquake I was never afraid again. No such luck! I don’t think the purpose of the experience was to free me from fear. I haven’t cleared enough space inside of me yet for that grace to descend. But I will.

When the earthquake hit I had been on the spiritual path for years. But see how easily my faith was shaken? Humbling, isn’t it? I wasn’t wrong to run from the building; God gives us commonsense and He expects us to use it! It wasn’t my action that was mistaken; it was my attitude. I was afraid.

Yes, of course, at such a moment fear is the common response. But I am not seeking the common response. I am seeking God realization.

Imagine what it would be like -- imagine what it will be like -- to live without fear. To be so strong in our faith that we can instantly embrace, without hesitation, whatever comes. To have the power, as Paramhansa Yogananda puts it, “To stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.”

I am not there yet. But that day will come. Not just to me, but to anyone who seeks it. By the grace of Divine Mother, that day will come.


Asha Praver has been living in Ananda communities and studying with Swami Kriyananda a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda for nearly 40 years. With her husband David, she is the co-director of the Ananda Temple and community in Palo Alto, California (www.anandapaloalto.org). She is the author of Swami Kriyananda as We Have Known Him (www.aswehaveknownhim).

Her book and an extensive selection of audio classes are available through amazon.com or from anandapaloalto.com (click talks/newsletters)

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